This mock draft will change. Frequently.
This mock draft is my best guess of what will happen. I know there are many who want to trade down or robotically recite the term “best player available.” Need is always factored in and projecting trades is close to pointless at this point in the process. With that said, trade talks start between teams at the NFL Combine, and free agency took care of a number of needs. One year away needs should be considered.
1. Cleveland Browns - EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M - Likely viewed as the draft’s top prospect. Reportedly dealt with a high ankle injury this season. NFL teams have to rush the passer, and drafting players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib don’t prevent you from adding Garrett. Expect Garrett to be one of the top EDGE athletes when he finishes the agility drills.
2. San Francisco 49ers - CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State - In full disclosure, I am terrible at projecting where corners are drafted. We saw Eli Apple and Artie Burns selected early, which was a total surprise for me. Obviously the second pick could be a major trade target if a team wants to pick a quarterback, especially with Robert Klemko not expecting the 49ers to select one in the first.
3. Chicago Bears - EDGE/DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford - Thomas is a really, really, really good football player. He can rush from the edge or possibly work inside. The Bears’ older pass rushers are nearing the end of their contracts, or at least the guarantees. I would not be shocked to see a tackle, although many would scream against the value. Piling resources into the offensive line for a new quarterback can work.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - RB Leonard Fournette, LSU - The Jaguars took care of so many needs in free agency. Perhaps they want to add a rangy free safety, or another offensive lineman, or a tight end, but signs and actions point to a powerful running back who can help build the identity of the offense.
5. Tennessee Titans (via LAR) - FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State - Some might render football down to turnovers and big plays. Hooker can create big plays and turnovers thanks to his extreme range from his safety spot. I know the Titans have added safeties in recent offseasons, but Hooker projects as a different breed.
6. New York Jets - LB Reuben Foster, Alabama - Yes, back to back linebackers in the first round for the Jets. But this allows the Jets to have both types of backers as Foster is an aggressive missile. The Jets have done nothing in free agency. I would listen to an argument saying the roster is worse than last season.
7. Los Angeles Chargers - EDGE Takk McKinley, UCLA - The second edge rusher off the board will be interesting. I could see a debate between five or six names. Melvin Ingram is on a franchise tag, and the team might want to hedge at the position in case a long-term contract can’t be reached.
8. Carolina Panthers - WR Corey Davis, WMU - Do I think the Panthers make this pick? Not really. Should they? Yes. The receiver room plateaued last season and then took a step back in free agency with the loss of Ted Ginn. Corey Davis has the skills for defenses to gameplan for. As of now, the same cannot be said for Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - WR John Ross, Washington - Ross is a really fun player, and would offer a much-needed element to the Bengals offense that went down the drain without two playmakers for much of the 2016 season. Andy Dalton is the type of quarterback that needs talent placed around him in order for the Bengals to make a playoff run.
10. Buffalo Bills - RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee - Surprise. The NFL likes Kamara more than those of us on the outside. The running game will be critical for the Bills success, as it was last season. I love LeSean McCoy. Love. But some have suggested he is an awkward fit in the new running scheme.
11. New Orleans Saints - QB Mitchell Trubisky, UNC - If you think previous years included conflicting quarterback opinions, just wait on this year. Trubisky was a starter for one season. It is vital to evaluate his play when pressured and forced outside of structure, since so much of UNC’s offense is about rhythm. A passer could certainly be off the board earlier, but the Saints need to plan for a post-Brees world. Finding a quarterback successor in the early rounds might be a new trend.
12. Cleveland Browns (via PHI) - QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson - I doubt the Browns can wait at No. 12 and get their quarterback of choice, so maybe a move up is possible. Watson has the sample size the Browns’ analytics group will like, but the question is if he is Hue’s preferred passer. I love how the Browns invested in the offensive line.
13. Arizona Cardinals - S Jamal Adams, LSU - The Cardinals used multiple safeties who left in free agency (D.J. Swearinger and Tony Jefferson. Adams obviously fits the LSU theme and the aggressive mentality the Cardinals seem to love.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIN) - CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State - If Sidney Jones was healthy, I would have projected him here. Conley is a name drawing more buzz as the process goes along.
15. Indianapolis Colts - CB Kevin King, Washington - I don’t think the edge rushing group is as great as we made it out to be. New GM Chris Ballard comes from the Chiefs, and many of the Chiefs selections seemed to have an athletic spin to it. T.J. Watt is possible, but corner seems to be a position with less depth on the roster. King is the most athletic player in the entire class.
16. Baltimore Ravens - EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee - Ozzie Newsome builds from the inside out. The Ravens edge rushers under contract are old or they are not dynamic.